Meaning of potlatch in English:


Pronunciation /ˈpɒtlatʃ/


  • (among North American Indian peoples of the north-west coast) an opulent ceremonial feast at which possessions are given away or destroyed to display wealth or enhance prestige.

    ‘In the society of survival, where the agonistic and vertiginous play of the potlatch is displaced by accumulation, an awareness of this has a deleterious effect on humanity.’
    • ‘In the potlatches of the Chinook, Nootka, and other Pacific Northwest peoples, for example, chiefs vied to give the most blankets and other valuables.’
    • ‘The Inuit who held the potlatch would often give away his most valuable possessions at the ceremony.’
    • ‘This potlatch feast demonstrated social status and wealth.’
    • ‘Perhaps the most familiar example of a gift culture is that of the native Americans of the Pacific Northwest such as the Kwakiutl and their famous potlatch ceremonies.’
    • ‘‘Potluck’ is derived from the word potlatch, a special occasion of many West Coast First Nations peoples.’
    • ‘And on this chilly Friday afternoon, the group is creating button blankets, traditionally used in First Nations ceremonies such as the potlatch.’
    • ‘Collars were ceremonial regalia among the Tlingit, and there are many period photographs of them being worn at potlatches and other special ceremonies.’
    • ‘Some cultures have potlatches; others prize spirituality.’
    • ‘The consumerist potlatch is especially striking because the brand names are nearly all American.’
    • ‘We arrived in the middle of winter to participate in that village's annual Stick Dance, a weeklong ceremony for the dead that culminates in a traditional potlatch.’
    • ‘He was an anthropologist who worked on the potlatch originally and became fascinated with these cycles by which a thing had value, lost value, regained value.’
    • ‘Social Darwinism should be made to work in reverse - those that have too much should be forced to hold a potlatch and divest themselves of their loot with those who have nothing.’
    • ‘This kind of destruction should not be confounded with the burning of valuables during a potlatch.’
    • ‘In addition, I participated extensively in silviculture work, potlatches, hunting and trapping expeditions, and political and community meetings.’
    • ‘In his Whitehorse office he has an aluminum coffee pot, a potlatch gift from a gathering in 1998.’
    • ‘Perhaps the opensource software movement is actually a contemporary form of potlatch, in which one gains prestige by the extravagance of the resources one ‘wastes.’’
    • ‘In New Guinea they have been used as a form of currency and in the Indian cultures of the Americas they were included in the ancient custom of potlatch, a system of gift-exchange amongst chiefs.’
    • ‘Take the widespread tribal custom of potlatch, for example, where gifts are exchanged between families or communities.’
    • ‘Patrick, dressed in a cedar-bark shirt and basket-like hat, filled us in on the Northwest Indians, whaling, copper mining, totem poles and potlatch ceremonies.’


[no object]
  • Hold a potlatch.

    • ‘As I showed previously, this was possible due to their strong system of private property rights enforced through sophisticated reciprocity relations known as potlatching.’


Chinook Jargon, from Nootka p'ačitł ‘make a gift at a potlatch’.